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Eleven Pipers Piping

Started by revanne, January 05, 2016, 04:11:04 PM

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The Eleventh day of Christmas

The fifth day of January in this new year of Grace 1139

It had been a gloomy Christmastide, reflected Duncan. Alaric's news of impending famine in Corwyn had cast a blight over the celebrations, distressing and pre-occupying Kelson, although the hours he and Nigel had spent closeted with the chancellors of Haldane and Carthmoor Duchies had revealed enough surplus in the harvests there to prevent a crisis becoming a catastrophe.

And now it appeared that something was biting Denis Arilan. Maybe Sextus, thought Duncan, who for all that he had won his baroness, still had the ability to provoke his uncle. And then there was Grub, or Amanda as she now insisted on being called, growing into a young lady attractive enough to cause anxiety to her male relatives and with her father's gift of rubbing Uncle Denis up the wrong way. Deliberately.

Duncan, together with Dhugal, was hosting a private supper for Denis and Thomas Cardiel - like many at Court they were taking the opportunity for a quiet evening before the next day's formalities - but the atmosphere was far from cordial. Denis seemed to take a perverse delight in turning every topic of conversation into an argument despite the best efforts of his two fellow bishops. Dhugal had long since lapsed into morose silence and Duncan had allowed his own mind to wander.

"Well of course it's arrant superstitious nonsense, Thomas! I don't doubt the common folk believe it , but where's your theology! Duncan, you'll back me up!"

Duncan came to with a start."Sorry! What...?" 

However irritated Denis was, it was unlike him to be so confrontational with his friend and colleague of many years but he continued in an impatient voice, "Thomas was telling some tarradiddle about a ghostly figure that has supposedly been seen in the Cathedral at Valoret!"

"But surely," began Thomas, "you Deryni..." but Denis interrupted, although this time with an obvious attempt to show the respect he genuinely felt for his human colleague.

"We have greater powers, yes; we have a greater awareness of the spiritual realm, - although God knows that doesn't necessarily make us any holier-", this with a somewhat abashed look at his three companions, "but that doesn't mean that we believe in ghosts and such like!"

Then with renewed exasperation, "Duncan, now you're back with us again! Surely you agree?"

The silence lengthened until even Dhugal's attention was aroused. Then Duncan spoke with an unaccustomed hesitancy in his tone.

"I'm not sure I do agree, Denis. I've got a tale..., and maybe now's the time to tell it? But let's have them clear these dishes away and we'll take a cup of wine and sit comfortably around the fire. Dhugal, if you would be so good as to call the brother on duty." It was clear to all that Duncan needed time to gather his thoughts.

The table cleared, the fire replenished and blazing, Duncan's guests waited for him to begin, even Denis's acerbity laid aside by the other's obvious sincerity. Duncan turned his cup in his hands and gazed for a long moment into the fire before he finally spoke.

"Bear with me, there are some painful memories attached to this tale. But such is war, and those guilty have paid for their crimes here, and I make no doubt, in the hereafter. Thomas, Denis, you cannot but remember, and Dhugal you'll have heard tell, how my father, Duke Jared was betrayed by Bran Coris and murdered by Wencit of Torenth in that travesty of an execution. It was no way for a Duke to die, but he would have been proud to die alongside his men. Dhugal, you can bear witness how a border lord, however mighty he may be, is first and last the father of his people. And it was as a father he was mourned; by all his people, not just by me."

Unashamed Duncan wiped tears from his eyes, and once again stared into the fire, before taking a deep drink of his wine and continuing,

"I cannot explain what I am about to tell you. Not as a Deryni, nor as a priest. But there is no reason for me to doubt the truth of what I have been told."

Unexpectedly Dhugal spoke into his mind: And so, too, have I been told, on my progresses around Cassan and Kierney, but it seemed presumptious to speak of it before you did. Duncan said nothing but Dhugal knew that his father had gained comfort and strength from the contact of their minds.

As though there had been no interruption Duncan continued, "when a chief dies, a lament is played. If you have ever heard it, echoing through the hills and glens, then you will know that the sound both sends a chill down your spine and breaks your heart..."

Duncan's voice trailed off but then more strongly and in a matter of fact tone, he added: "Up there in the highlands attack can come at any time, and from many directions, and if you live next to Meara you learn to be prepared. So from Kilarden, right round Ballymar Head, through Kilshane and Kierney, down to Transha and criss-crossing the heights inland, there runs a chain of beacons on the highest hills where the warning fires can be lit."

He took a deep breath, looking at none of them, "one summer night when the Duke and his men had gone to defend the passes against Wencit's invasion - though in the remotest places of the Duchy many did not even know that much -, as twilight turned to full night, from all eleven of those sentinel hills, came the sound of a single piper playing the lament for a fallen chief. Nothing was to be seen, only the crying of the pipes into the falling dark. And when news of my father's death finally came, then the people understood.

"It is not much talked about, as though it is held as a memory veiled by sanctity, but from every village, under the shadow of those beacon hills, that I have ever visited, it has been shared with me - the Chief of the McLains."

"And now with me also, though I would not speak of it before my father did," interjected Dhugal quietly.

"Eleven  pipers piping, piping my father to his rest. May God have mercy on his soul." Duncan crossed himself, a gesture echoed by the others present.

Nothing more was said until at last Thomas rose and quietly offered prayer for all those who had died in those terrible days. Then gathering Denis with a command of his eyes he went to the door. Denis stood and in a rare gesture of affection, briefly embraced Duncan before he and Thomas went out together. Father and son were left alone and Duncan found comfort for his re-opened grief in the arms of his son.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)


* Evie blinks away tears

Well done!
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!


Denis Arilan pretends to be crusty old crumudgeon, but we all know he's a big old softie underneath.


You have found the perfect tale for the eleven pipers.  Thank you.

Though I must give a small cheer for Grub/Amanda, knowing how to annoy her uncle to perfection.  :)
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


Sniffles and passes around the box of tissues. Beautiful.


Quote from: Jerusha on January 05, 2016, 06:46:51 PM

Though I must give a small cheer for Grub/Amanda, knowing how to annoy her uncle to perfection.  :)

Isn't that what what nieces are for?  Particularly to crusty old bachelor uncles? 


Poor Jared, and poor Duncan. But a wonderful tale! Very atmospheric for the highlands, and a moving tribute to the late Duke Jared.

You can have a sound mind in a healthy body--Or you can be a nanonovelist!


Wonderful story. I now want to know what is going on in Valoret.
The light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.


Quote from: Demercia on January 06, 2016, 06:39:00 AM
Wonderful story. I now want to know what is going on in Valoret.

I don't. I am frequently visited by the insomnimonster but I was less than impressed when Duncan chose to tell me this story at 4am in the morning; I am quite happy never to be told the story of the goings on in Valoret, although I can think of several possible candidates ( maybe now there is a Prince Javan ? ;D). Of course, Demercia if you are offering...
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)



Seeing a ghost in Valoret should come as no surprise to anyone, considering the events of 200 years ago. I do wonder if Denis will ever experience the specter of Saint Camber for himself?
May your horses have wings and fly!


I had a shiver down my spine as I was half way in the reading and remembered where this tale did lead. Now I have tears.
Tis a beautiful and fitting tale of the eleven pipers announcing the passing of a great man, Chief Jared McLain was that and much more.

Thank you Revanne and thank you Duncan for keeping Revanne awake at 4am in the morning to tell her your story.
May your horses have wings and fly!


Have to admit I always had a bit of a soft spot for Denis and felt a little sorry for him that Camber always seemed to shun him although if you consider his childhood, I think he always tried to do his best for his people.
I also felt shivers at the keening of the pipes for Jared. He certainly did not deserve what Wencit did to him.
"Thanks be to God there are still, as there always have been and always will be, more good men than evil in this world, and their cause will prevail." Brother Cadfael's Penance


The spirit arises above the tormentor; Jared was always the better man.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany